What is Dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia affects around 5% of children, a smaller proportion than those affected by dyslexia (the rate of occurrence for dyslexia in the United States is approximately 15%). This has resulted in dyscalculia remaining relatively unknown; many people are not even familiar with the term.
What effect could this have on children with dyscalculia? Imagine struggling every day at school with number problems that your peers master far more quickly than you do. Your teacher is beginning to lose patience with you and your parents think you are just not trying hard enough. They don´t understand that you are trying hard every day, but even basic arithmetic concepts make no sense to you. You are called lazy or stupid or both.
This is the reality for many students with dyscalculia. With awareness of this learning difference still low, children may not be diagnosed as dyscalculic and not receive intervention that could help them succeed in the classroom.
Dyscalculia receives less press than does dyslexia. Parents and teachers may not even be aware that dyscalculia exists, much less recognise what could be signs of the learning difference. We’ve put together a list of things to watch out for if you think your child may have a learning difficulty in maths. Some of these signs are more established through research while others have been reported by teachers, parents, or dyscalculics themselves.
- Slowness in learning to count
- Difficulty in comparing quantities (larger vs. smaller)
- Difficulty in recognising quantities, even small numbers of objects
- Difficulty in understanding “maths words” such as “greater” or “less than”
- Lagging behind peers in learning simple arithmetic such as easy addition
- Reliance on slow methods of performing maths, such as counting on fingers for addition or adding up numbers for multiplication
- Difficulty in telling time from an analogue clock
- Difficulty in keeping track of time
- Inability to count out change or estimate costs
- Anxiety when faced with number-related tasks; maths anxiety
Dyscalculia Tests and Traditional Treatment
The presence of one or more of these signs does not necessarily add up to dyscalculia. If you think your child or student may have a learning difference then an evaluation from a professional is a key step to getting a child the support that they need.
How do you go about getting your child tested for and, if necessary, diagnosed with dyscalculia?
Tests and diagnosis will need to be carried out by a psychologist but your first step can be to talk with your child’s teacher if you are a parent, or with the parents if you are a teacher. Compare notes on how the child deals with numbers at school and in daily life. The child’s school or doctor could be a resource for a referral to a psychologist.
Getting tested by a psychologist is important to discover if the child has dyscalculia or another maths learning difference rather than simply needing extra support in maths. A psychologist can also give input as to the possibility of other learning differences, such as ADHD or dyslexia.
Research on dyscalculia is still developing and schools need to become aware of the need for greater resources for teachers, parents, and dyscalculic children. Getting a diagnosis is one step towards getting your child or student the support needed.
Dyscalculia: Can Technology Help?
Technology can be of great help to us for overcoming certain difficulties, whether there are physical or psychological, but what has it done and can do for dyscalculia?
Educational technology can be used to help train the brain of dyscalculia sufferers to be more flexible and create alternative neurological paths, this enables a person to work with their dyscalculia and enhance their brain processing power.
Software such as Dybuster Calcularis trains mathematical skills using colours, shapes and sounds. In doing so, it increases neuronal activity and guarantees the progress of individual learners. This multi-sensory learning technique has been confirmed by multiple scientific studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and the University of Zurich: After only three months’ training, users achieved an average improvement of more than 35% fewer mathematical mistakes!
Looking at examples such as Calcularis, it is even clearer that technology can significantly help those with dyscalculia. Ongoing research by organisations such as Dybuster will keep on advancing to find the perfect solution to help you with your dyscalculia.